Beyond Sound & Scent in The Andalusian Garden


“Senses are essential to the human condition.”

Dr. D. Fairchild Ruggles’ lecture entitled “Sound & Scent in the Andalusian Garden” provided me with a newfound gap in my previous knowledge about Islamic palaces and garden complexes. Dr. Ruggles’ emphasis on Andalusian gardens came by way of an introduction to the ephemeral sensory experiences that we certainly cannot and will not ever know. The flowers from a bygone era have most definitely changed, and she continues, “so have our noses.”

After receiving my Bachelor’s degree in Art History one could imagine that I spent a considerable amount of time looking at images. Of course to be an art history major in college means analyzing works of art, theorizing about artists’ processes, and ultimately piecing together history through objects (usually of aesthetic value). I had the pleasure of studying under Professor Lawrence Nees, whose main focus was the early artistic traditions of Islam. I learned a great deal about the Alhambra and was captivated by the intricacy of architectural details and adornment through calligraphic words throughout the monument.

“We are imprisoned by our sensory interaction with the world.”

I had never imagined myself or anyone else present in the spaces in which I learned about in college. I never wondered what life

Arabic Garden
Acequia Court at Alhambra Palace in Granada, Andalusia, Spain (Photo: Jeffrey Schrader)

I had never imagined myself or anyone else present in the spaces in which I learned about in college. I never wondered what life what like in those spaces or what sorts of interactions may have occurred that were different than today. I never thought about what is so essential to my human condition—the processes by which I filter worldly information. The processes I may take for granted and never would have thought to relate to my study of art history.

Spaces are designed for reasons—visual pleasure may only be one of them. A question was posed Tuesday night about the curation of Islamic gardens—a gentleman wondered if the composition of gardens was purely made through visual decisions. Dr. Ruggles insisted that scent was taken into account when designing the flower arrangements in the garden—perhaps even more so than the visual aspects.

I immediately started thinking about my own experiences arranging objects according to their scent—picking out various candles for a room and testing out their fragrances, or perhaps making sure that my perfume does not clash with the smell of my partner’s cologne.


Lindsey Snyder
Marketing Director

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